Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

February 20, 2018

Tip of the Week
Forehands and Backhands: 1-2-3, not 1-2.

USA Team Selections
On Friday I spent much of the day studying the USATT Team Selection Process. (I blogged about this on Friday morning - somewhat jokingly though it's a serious matter.) There's a lot of nuance to this. For example, I often read complaints about how the teams are selected, but without distinguishing between how players are selected to be on the National Team (now called "TTTeam USA"), as opposed to who is selected to play at specific events, such as (for juniors) the World Junior Championships, Pan Am Junior Championships, or various ITTF junior tournaments. So there are really things involved in Team Selection - these two (who is on National Team, who plays in which events), plus the selection of coaches.

There's also the question of how much should be done by Trials, and how much by Selection. Many instinctively want it to be all Trials, until it's pointed out that due to injury, illness, or just having a bad day, the best player might not make the team, and then he's out for an entire year. So most agree that the High Performance Director (HPD), the High Performance Committee (HPC), or the National Team Coaches should be able to add perhaps one or two players. But then we start listening to the HPD and the HPC and they point out how a Team Trials isn't always realistic - it favors those who are good against other U.S. players that they are familiar with, it's a one-shot process that favors whoever is hot that day, and it leaves out players with great potential that are developing their game for the long term, while favoring those who play for the short term.

Plus, of course, who makes all these decisions, the HPD, the HPC, or the National Coaches?

There's also a distinction between how to put together a mini-cadet (12 and under), cadet (15 and under), junior (18 and under) and men's or women's team. For the various junior teams, you want to focus on developing them as future international players. For men's and women's teams, you want players who have become international players, or are on the verge. Do you favor younger players over older ones who are still better, but have less potential to improve with international experience? These are some of the questions that need answering.

Probably the biggest problem is that many are so opinionated on this that it's hard to have a serious dicussion. Many consider "compromise" a dirty word.

And so on Friday I created the perfect plan, the proposal to end all proposals, a proposition so precise in its ping-pong perfeduity (I just made that word up since I was running out of usable "p" words, but it sure sounds like a word), that all people will proclaim it's prodigious profoundness.

To be clear, I'm only set on two of the three selection items I've listed above; I'm still playing around with a third. I also want to think some more on this, and later on discuss it with the HPD and perhaps members of the HPC before submitting it as a proposal. I just want to make sure they've all done their laundry since some of those socks it'll knock off might smack me in the face. Or they may hate it so much they'll rub their dirty socks in my face. Either way, I'm going to get socked.

So I'm not going public with it yet. There's no rush as this year's selection procedures are set, and they won't be looking into 2019 plans probably until the fall.

The Inside Scoop on Shortz and Westchester
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. "Will Shortz has a lot of balls in play. He is probably best known as the Crossword editor of the New York Times. Shortz is also the Puzzlemaster for NPR, founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Chairman, World Puzzle Federation. Oh yes, he has also been the author/editor of more than 500 puzzle books. Wait, there is more. The 65-year-old Shortz is a passionate table tennis player and owns the runs the Westchester Table Tennis Center that opened in the New York City suburb of Pleasantville NY in 2011."

Watch Ping-Pong Make Its New York Philharmonic Debut
Here's the article, pictures, and great video (1:39) from the New York Times, featuring Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing. Dazzling!!!

Lindenwood College
Here are two USATT news items where they are featured.

You Don't Play Well in Tournaments Because...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "Find Out 5 Ways to Maximize Your Performance!"

Table Tennis Tidbits 17 & 18
Here are two more from Robert Ho - articles and video.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Chloe's Birthday
Here's the podcast (31:17) from PingSkills. Joke of the Week, On This Week, Tournament Wrap, Tip and Drill (Trill) of the Week, Forehand Placement, Training Relaxed Focus, Training Tools, and Topspin Against Backspin.

Excitement Builds for ITTF Team World Cup 2018
Here's the article from Table Tennis England. Here are ITTF World Team Cup articles. Event takes place in London, Feb. 22-25.

From Whiff Whaff and Gossima Beginnings, Table Tennis Continues to Be a Smash Hit as Sport Prepares to Come Home
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here's the February issue.

The Man Who Plays Table Tennis Using His Mouth
Here's the video (2:07). Here's another video of this incredible table tennis player, Ibrahim Hamato.

Very Young Timo Boll 1995
Here's the video (8:46).

Ma Long Under-Table Hidden Sidespin
Here's the video (16 sec) against Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Happy New Year 2018 Table Tennis Lovers!
Here's the highlights reel (3:16). Somehow I hadn't seen this until now.

Blast from the Past: Primorac vs. Kim Taek Soo
Here's the video (22 sec) of this great point from the Gilbert Cup. 

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 16
Here’s chapter 16 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Potato Thins Handsfree Table Tennis Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec, including about 5 sec of table tennis)

Cartwheel Pong
Here's the video (11 sec)!

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February 19, 2018

President's Day
It's President's Day, the day we all celebrate all of our great presidents and try to forget the bad ones. (Or perhaps mock them.) It's a federal holiday, so I'm off today - though I'll be spending most of the day on a writing project. Meanwhile, to tide you over until tomorrow, here's the best 21-second rally in history - the Maggie intro scene from Balls of Fury

February 16, 2018

UTZ Day
Yes, it's Usa Team Zelection (UTZ*) Day, the day I start looking into how USATT chooses its National Teams. I blogged about this on January 22 blog, where I wrote, "However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11)."
[*Our High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio and our long-time National Men's Coach Stefan Feth are both German, and in really bad movies the Germans always pronounce "S" words with a Z, so I'm going with "Zelection" here. And I'm suddenly craving potato chips. Yeah, it looks more like a Pringles, but close enough.]

Now, While Hodges Yielding a Mesmerizing Editorial (WHYME) on this, where I rip into any little thing I don't like, may be entertaining, that's not gonna happen. Instead, I'm going to hedge a bit here as while Hodges Endeavors this Day to Grok Everything (HEDGE), that doesn't mean I'm going to hash it all out in public, as some would like to see it done. After I've gone over all the materials, I'll either agree with it completely; find some small recommendations; find larger problems and make recommendations; or come up with my own plan that I'd recommend to the USATT High Performance Committee. But after Hodges Evaluates Long-term Plans and Makes Evaluations (HELPME), I'll first share anything I come up with to our HPD (Jörg) for comment as a first step. So no, I'm not going to Try to Tackle This In a Public Skirmish (TTTIPS). I will Study Every Regulation In Our Usatt Schemes (SERIOUS) to see if there are ways I think we can improve. (Yes, this is a serious issue, but allow me my fun.)

This Is Probably Our First Time Hodges Ever Will Examine Every Key (TIPOFTHEWEEK) to our National Team Selection, where he looks at all Team Rituals that Usatt Might Plan to Lead our Inevitable Escalation to Stardom (TRUMPLIES). (Hey, that was just a coincidence! Really!)

Some, like Bruce Liu (from Bay Area Table Tennis) and Rajul Sheth (also Bay Area, ICC Director and USATT board member) have approached me about our team selection process, and so I'm now starting the Hodges Initiative for Bruce and Rajul to Unite in our Common Endeavor (HIBRUCE). I hope to work fast and Find A Solution Today (FAST)!

Feel free to post below your own silly acronyms on this topic. Please don't make me read them. (But I will.)

House Update
As I blogged previously, coaches Ruichao Alex Chen, Wang Qing Liang, and Wu Jiachen moved in with me a few days ago, with MDTTC renting the first two floors of my townhouse for them. (I live on the third floor.) I had to do a lot of costly things to get the place ready for them.  Costs so far: Cleaning: $457; Handyman: $796; Locksmith $120; plumber $332. I've agreed to spend $1000 on new carpets. So total costs for me (so far) are about $2700. Next week: replacing two windows, probaby about $300. 

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
Yesterday's session had 14 players, with coaches John and Martin assisting. We divided the hour into three parts. Part 1 was serve practice, where I gave a short demo (we've covered this already), and gave them the choice on whether to work on fast serves or spin serves. Part 2 was smashing. After a demo, they went out on the tables and did this, mostly three at a time (others practiced or picked up balls) where the coach fed multiball - one to wide backhand, one to middle, one to wide forehand - and then rotated back while the others took their turn. Part 3 was games, where the players had their choice on either playing King of the Table or trying to smack my infamous Gatorade bottle of "worm juice" as I fed multiball (3 shots per player, rotating) - if they did, I had to drink it. As it happened, every player wanted to make me worm juice (despite my admonitions that "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice"), and so there was no King of the Table. I drank much worm juice.

World's Worst Ping-Pong Excuse?
On Wednesday I was coaching a kid (age 12) who normally works very hard. But this time he seemed distracted when doing footwork drills, and kept stopping to stretch and to examine his leg. I finally asked him why he wasn't trying harder, and this is what he said: "There's no blood in my leg." I think I've heard it all now.

Learning to Whip My Forehand with Eli Baraty
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. "One of my team-mates Daniel Hearne-Potton (a rapidly improving cadet player) recently said to me, 'Tom, you’re quite good at table tennis, but your technique is terrible.'"

How To Improve Your Speed In Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis Store. "We have all heard of fast and slow twitch fibers in muscles — in almost every sport the secret to improving your athletic skill is to make your muscles not only stronger but also faster. Fast muscles give you a big advantage in almost all sport related skills but especially in fast reaction sports."

Defending Table Tennis Serves
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "What makes a great serve? For a lot of players the answer is a variation of what once was used to identify obscenity; 'I know it when I see it.'"

Cal Table Tennis: Road to NCTTA Regionals and Nationals!
They are doing a fundraiser to send Cal Table Tennis to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA).

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

“I will try to win the title next year”: Dimitrij Ovtcharov looks back on Montreux display
Here's the ITTF article on Ovtcharov's thoughts on failing to win his fourth consecutive Europe Top 16 title (losing the final this year to teammate Timo Boll).

Table Tennis England (Current State of Affairs)
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. He's not happy.

A Plucky Paralympic Point
Here's the video (43 sec, from 2014) - if he can get this many balls back (from the floor), why can't you?

Down-the-Line, Around-the-Bottle Serve
Here's the video (18 sec)!

Under 12 Finalists at the Butterfly MDTTC Open - Animated!
Here are five photos of the top four finishers - animated! (May take a few seconds to load.) L-R: Kay O'Hara (3rd); Mu Du (1st); Lance Wei (4th); and Andy Wu (2nd).

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February 15, 2018

USATT Teleconference
We had a USA Table Tennis Board of Directors teleconference on Monday night, 7:00-8:31PM. Attending were all nine board members (including me), plus the CEO, the COO, the HPD, and the S&LC. (Give up on this alphabet soup? The first three are listed on the USATT Staff Page, the third is the Secretary and Legal Counsel, Dennis Taylor.) I'm guessing that I spoke less in this meeting than any past meeting, probably by several magnitudes. However, before the meeting I did do a number of edits to the minutes of the December 2017 meeting - once an editor, always an editor.

First on the agenda was the approval of the minutes of the December two-day board meeting in Las Vegas during the U.S. Open, and the January teleconference minutes. After some discussion, they were both approved - I made the motions. They are now both online for your reading pleasure in the USATT Minutes and Actions page.

Then came reports on SafeSport. We have lost almost 1/3 of our clubs due to this - from 263 to the current 183, though we expect a number of others to soon become SafeSport compliant - we'll almost for sure get back over 200. I blogged about this on February 2 when we were down to only 138 clubs (see second segment). The good news is the USOC sent us a note saying they were happy with our SafeSport compliance. They had given us some recommendations, which USATT had implemented. They wrote, "The review found that the recommendations were implemented and are considered closed. USATT was prompt to implement the recommendations in the SafeSport audit." Now if we can just get most of those 82 non-compliant clubs! (And yes, it's a big hassle that I wasn't happy about either.)

Next up was discussion of the currently empty chair of the Ethics and Grievance Committee. A USATT news item went up yesterday on this. Next came an update on the World Veterans Championships, coming up June 18-24 - currently there are 3702 entries (deadline March 15 or 5000 entries), but there are hundreds of "provisional" ones, who we expect to enter but haven't officially sent them in yet - enough to safely say we'll at least break 4000. Then came updates on sponsorship and fund-raising, the Para Procedures update, the High Performance update, and the 2019 World Tour and 2020 World Championships update. Then came a closed session to discuss some disciplinary matters. (I can't believe Trump cheats at table tennis - he hides his serve, boosts, and when you're not looking, steals your wallet to give to the rich.)

We finished with a discussion about our next in-person update, and apparently there isn't a single date between now and July where the board is free. I'm guilty of not being free six weekends: running the MDTTC Open on Apr. 14-15; coaching at and running the tournament at the Hopes Camp and Tournament in Maryland Apr. 27-29; a panelist at the Balticon Science Fiction Convention May 25-27 (my other "life"); running the Maryland State Championships June 2-3 and my annual science fiction writing workshop vacation in Manchester, NH, July 20-28 (covers two weekends). We will likely try to have the board meeting either just after the World Veterans Championships (June 18-24) or just before the U.S. Nationals a week later (July 1-7). I plan on staying the entire three weeks, taking a one-week reading/writing vacation in between.

And then we adjourned!

Excellent Health Advice for all Ping Pong Players
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

North and South Korea - They Joined Forces But It Didn't Last
Here's the video (3:01) from the BBC. "This is the story of North and South Korea's ping pong stars, who joined forces and became firm friends - but it didn't last."

Super Quick Style of Long Pips Penholder Kid
Here's the video (3:05). I think he's using medium long pips. Watch it once to see how this kid plays. Watch it a second time to see the expressions on his poor opponent, who probably has never faced anything like this!

He Zhi Wen (Juanito) - Master of Short Pips
Here's the video (3:05). This style used to be common, now it's almost extinct. It'd be great to get more diversity like this back into our sport.

Two Paddles Baby Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Long Table Pong?
Here's the video (59 sec) as they play with three tables, placed end to end. I can't wait for them to go for that short ball!

This Is the Coolest Ping-Pong Table!
Here's the video (49 sec).

Solo Pong!
Here's the video (28 sec). Why not try this out at your club?

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February 14, 2018

Tip of the Week
Focus on Performance and Fun to Maximize Your Chances of Winning.

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC February Open
February 10-11, 2018 • Maryland Table Tennis Center • Gaithersburg, MD
[Here's my write-up of the tournament I ran this past weekend. If not interested, then as usual skip ahead to the many segments afterwards!]

Top-seeded Wu Junhan from New Jersey, rated 2691 (but over 2750 most of last year, with a high of 2788), cruised into the final without losing a game, or even going deuce. As someone on the sidelines said, "He makes it look so easy." Yes he does, but that's why he's 2700. How many players that level make it look hard? Well, maybe Chen Alex Ruichao, the other Open finalist, who goes after every shot in ways that do not look so easy. (Here's a nice picture of the final.)

Alex was also over 2700 for a number of months the last three years, with a high of 2722 before dropping to a likely temporary 2615. The lefty Alex may have the best pure serve and forehand rip game in North America, and you could see much of the match came down to Wu trying to stop that, and when Wu serves, trying to stop Alex from counter-ripping winners. It wasn't easy - here's video of the shot of the Tournament (46 sec, video by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile) - Chen Ruichao's lunging, down-the-line counter-smash in the Open Final against Wu - at 12-all!

But I noticed something about Wu - he is incredibly quick at reading service depth. When Alex served short, Wu would almost always receive backhand, even if the serve was short to the forehand, using a topspinny backhand banana flip. If the serve was the least bit long, he'd forehand loop it. The result was Alex was perpetually trying to counter-attack against these topspin attacks, which put great pressure on his third-ball attack. Early on Wu dominated with these tactics, but gradually Alex got used to them, and his attacks began to hit more and more - but Wu's attack almost never missed. After winning the first two easily, Wu had a battle on his hands for three games  - with Alex winning a pair of 14-12 wars, and leading 9-8 in the game he lost at 9 - before Wu pulled away in the sixth to win, 3,6,-12,9,-12,6.

Congrats to Champions Wu Junhan, Khaleel Asgarali, Vikash Sahu, Stephen Emmons, Stephanie Zhang, Wang Zhantong, Sameer Wadkar, Danny Wan, Eugene Cristoaica, Jackson Beaver, and Mu Du! The closest battles? 12-year-old Danny Wan "eighting" things up in the Under 1300 final, where he was up 5-0 and 10-8 match point in the fifth against Sameer Wadkar, but lost four in a row to lose at 8,-8,-8,8,10. He took it pretty hard, but went back out and won Under 1000, and celebrated equally hard with his two trophies. In Under 1900, 14-year-old chopper Stephanie Zhang had a pair of 11-7 in the fifth wins in the semifinals and final. In the Over 50 final, top-seeded Michael Huang was up 2-0 on Eugene Cristoaica, but Eugene came back to win, -6,-8,10,7,8.

The biggest romps were Vikash Sahu's 18-0 game record in winning Under 2200, and Mu Du's 12-0 record in winning Under 12. (Both were top seeded.) Khaleel Asgarali sort of romped in Under 2400, where he was also top seeded at 2397, going 9-0 in the quarters, semis, and final - but in the preliminaries he had to battle with Aldin Soneja (2025) and Costel Constantin (1948), at 8,-8,7,7 and -11,7,8,9 respectively. 11-year-old Jackson Beaver also sort of romped in the Under 15 event, losing only one game in four matches - partly because he went 5-0 in games that were 11-9 or deuce.

The tournament was processed on Monday, the day after the tournament - remember when we often had to wait weeks? Here are the rating results. Here are the biggest gainers - the "100 Point Club":

  • 230 by Danny Wan, 841 to 1071 (who won Under 1000 and was second in Under 1300, going 9-1 in the tournament)
  • 182 by Wang Zhantong, 1380 to 1562 (who won Under 1600)
  • 171 by Stephanie Zhang, 1505 to 1676 (who won Under 1900)
  • 150 by James Zhang, 1496 to 1646 (who made the semifinals of Under 1900 - one match away from playing his sister in the final)
  • 132 by Todd Klinger, 1338 to 1470 (despite two nail-biting five-game losses that would have seen his rating shoot to perhaps infinity)
  • 116 by Allan Anzagira, 1517 to 1633 (who made the final of Under 1600, and was the best lefty penholder in the tournament)

As usual, a great thanks goes to sponsors Butterfly and HW Global Foundation, the latter which runs the Talent Development program that trains at MDTTC – which swept all four semifinal spots in both junior events. A great thanks also goes to Mossa Barandao of PongMobile, who helped run the tournament – he’s at the control desk the entire tournament doing much of the data input, plus taking pictures - see links below in results. (Mossa also sets up a station at our tournaments and leagues so players can easily look up via PongMobile, their ratings and ratings histories, both in numbers and graphic form. The station is always surrounded by players looking up all their friends, coaches, and rivals.) Thanks goes to referee Paul Kovac and umpire Stephen Yeh. And a great thanks to the 88 players entered in the tournament!

Complete results are available at Omnipong. Here is a summary – click on event links to see pictures of the finalists!

Open Singles - Final: Wu Junhan d. Chen Ruichao, 3,6,-12,9,-12,6; SF: Wu d. Chen Bo Wen, 5,6,9,5; Chen Ruichao d. Martin Jezo, 5,7,9,4; QF: Wu d. Roy Ke, 9,6,5; Chen Bo Wen d. Lidney Castro, -5,5,8,7; Jezo d. Shao Boyang, 9,5,3; Chen Ruichao d. Wang Yimiao, -8,9,5,8.
Under 2400 - Final: Khaleel Asgarali d. Gabriel Skolnick, 8,3,5; SF: Asgarali d. Shao Boyang, 4,10,3; Skolnick d. Tiffany Ke, 10,9,6; QF: Asgarali d. Xu Rui, 6,7,6; Shao d. Stephen Chu, -2,6,2,10; Ke d. Vikash Sahu, 9,-9,3,4; Skolnick d. Mohamed Kamara, 6,2,7.
Under 2200 - Final: Vikash Sahu d. Spencer Chen, 3,5,6; SF: Sahu d. Stanley Hsu, 5,10,4; Chen d. Joshua Gong, 9,12,8; QF: Sahu d. William Xu, 7,6,5; Hsu d. Aldin Soneja, 6,-8,8,-8,10; Gond d. Costel Constantin, 6,6,-9,14; Chen d. Lakhan Abichandani, 7,-2,11,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Stephen Emmons d. Joshua Gong, 8,-9,10,7; SF: Emmons d. Pavan Kumar, 6,12,6; Gong d. Gideon Teitel, 5,10,-2,-6,12.
Under 1900 - Final: Stephanie Zhang d. Hanfei Hu, 11,5,-7,-6,7; SF: Zhang d. Robert Gabay, 2,-8,7,-9,7; Hu d. James Zhang, 9,9,6.
Under 1600 - Final: Wang Zhantong d. Allan Anzagira, 9,-4,-5,7,2; SF: Wang d. Kurtus Hsu, -8,4,4,8; Anzagira d. Anoop Srivastava, 9,4,4.
Under 1300 - Final: Sameer Wadkar d. Danny Wan, 8,-8,-8,8,10; SF: Wadkar d. Robert Lehrman, 9,8,5; Wan d. Eugene O'Bryan, -9,7,3,6.
Under 1000 - Final: Danny Wan d. Joseph Cho, -9,7,10,-9,6; SF: Wan d. Matthew Guo, 10,6,7; Cho d. Christian Funderbert, 6,5,12.
Over 50 - Final RR: 1st Eugene Cristoaica, 2-0; 2nd Xinsheng Michael Huang, 1-1; 3rd James Wilson, 0-2.
Under 15 - Final RR: 1st Jackson Beaver, 4-0; 2nd Stanley Hsu, 3-1; 3rd Hanfei Hu, 1-3; 4th Todd Klinger, 1-3; 5th Kay O'Hara, 1-3.
Under 12 - Final RR: 1st Mu Du, 5-0; 2nd Andy Wu, 4-1; 3rd Kay O'Hara, 2-3; 4th Lance Wei, 2-3; 5th Kurtus Hsu, 2-3; 5th Matthew Guo, 0-5.

Happy TT Valentine's Day!
This is what you get when you Google "Table Tennis Valentines Pictures."

H.W. Global Talent Development Program
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. I'm one of the coaches for this program.

USATT Release New Coach of the Year Award Guidelines
Here are the USATT Guidelines. I created these, based on suggestions and feedback from the Coach of the Year Selection Committee (I'm a member) and the USATT Coaching Committee (which I chair). They were then voted on and adopted by the USATT Coaching Committee.

USATT Tournament Promotion Guide
Here's the new USATT manual by Matt Hetherington - ATTENTION TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS!!!

USATT Seeks Applicants for Chair of Ethics and Grievance Committee
Here's the USATT notice.

Nominations Open for ITTF Athletes’ Commission
Here's the ITTF article.

How to Win Against Younger and Better players (Junior Players)
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Training Plans
Here's the podcast () from PingSkills. Items covered: Joke of the Week; On This Week; Tournament Wrap; Tip and Drill of the Week; 52 Week Training Plan; Serve to the Body; Practicing Pendulum Serve; and Practicing on Small table.

37 Seconds of Footwork with Lily Zhang
Here's the video - do you practice this?

New Videos from Arnaud Scheen

The Rise and Future of a Prodigy: Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the USATT article by Ray Huang.

The Koreas: Divided by War, United by a Flag?
Here's the article and video (3:31) from CNN. The table tennis is from 0:53 to 2:02.

Thursday Morning Ping Pong: The little sport doing big things at Toronto retirement home
Here's the article and pictures from CBC News in Canada.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 15
Here’s chapter 15 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Floyd Mayweather's $30,000 Crystal Ping Pong Table
Here's the article, video, and pictures.

How Many Times Did the Ball Bounce? Best Guess Wins!
Here's the video (1 sec - you read that right) from Karen Chang Wu.

Some Serious Anime Pong
Here's the video (1:38). This is over-the-top crazy and absolutely insane! You don't want to miss it.

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February 13, 2018

Three Coaches Moving In Downstairs
The three MDTTC coaches are moving into my townhouse this morning, and I'm helping them, and doing last-minute clean-ups and fixes. Has there ever been a higher-rated group of movers? Chen Alex Ruichao, Wang Qingliang, Wu Jiacheng, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang? The first three are renting the first two floors of the townhouse I own; I live on the third floor. I'm compiling a list of damages downstairs - the people before left much of it a mess, with everything from damaged windows to broken drawers, so I'm calling a handyman probably today to fix things. So no blog today. Back tomorrow, likely with an aching back. 

Addendum, added Tuesday afternoon: Here's the Tip of the Week, Focus on Performance and Fun to Maximize Your Chances of Winning. (This will go up in tomorrow's blog as well.) 

February 12, 2018

I'm off today - I'm resting from the MDTTC February Open I ran this past weekend, plus I have a todo list from here to Mars, much of it table tennis stuff. Below is a quick rundown of today's list - fortunately, I have no coaching scheduled for today, "my day off." But here's a new video (9 sec) of a great behind-the-back counter-smash to tide you over.

  • USATT Tournament Report - DONE
  • Tournament Accounting - DONE
  • Tournament Write-up, Results, and Photos (Results and Photos - DONE)
  • ITTF Coaching Report for a Coach - DONE
  • Create ITTF Hopes Camp Flyer - DONE
  • Finalize ITTF Hopes Tournament Flyer - DONE
  • Finalize Coaching Committee Vote on Coach of the Year Guidelines - DONE
  • Prepare for 7PM USATT Teleconference tonight - DONE
  • I own a townhouse with three floors, and live on the top floor. The people who rented the first two floors for the past 4.5 years left this weekend, and today I've got a cleaning crew coming in to clean up the place, and then three coaches from MDTTC move in tomorrow - Wang Qingliang, Chen Alex Ruichao, and Wu Jiacheng. So I have to get everything ready for them. - DONE
  • Change locks on doors - DONE
  • Fix broken doorbell or get new one - DONE
  • New cable arrangement with Comcast - DONE

See you on Tuesday!

February 9, 2018

Tournament Prep for Butterfly MDTTC February Open This Weekend
I'm running the Butterfly MDTTC February Open this weekend at my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center. We'll have about 80 players in the eleven events.

MDTTC normally has 16 tables set up, about half full courts, the others smaller courts. For tournaments, we use eight full-sized courts, with the full-time coaches using the others throughout the tournament. With the tournament set-up the coaches have six tables that they'll be coaching on throughout the tournament, which is actually a strain since we have ten full-time coaches - but I'm one of them and won't be coaching, and another is out of town. After lunch some of them stop coaching as they are playing in the Open. (We sometimes use some of those tables in the afternoon.)

I run the tournaments on Omnipong. It's great for running tournaments, very user friendly, and the creator, Craig Krum, is very helpful when problems arise.

We ran into a potentially serious problem with this tournament. I'd made some changes to the time schedule in December, but I didn't think to upload the new entry form to Omnipong until about ten days ago. Yesterday I discovered some players had the old version, and so would likely have shown up at the wrong time - either way early, or (worse) way late, and so get defaulted. But Omnipong has a feature that allows me to email the players, so yesterday I emailed everyone about the entry form, making sure everyone had the correct one. Problem averted.

Mossa Barandao of PongMobile will be helping out, as usual. We take turns on who runs the computer, who does the rest (calling players over, assigning tables, sending them out, all the other miscellaneous stuff). International Umpire and Certified Referee Paul Kovac is the referee.

The top seed is Junhan Wu (2691), who entered Friday afternoon (so this is an update). Second is Chen Ruichao, who is usually close to 2700, but recently dropped to 2615. Chen Bo Wen is usually around 2600, and is now also under-rated at 2515. There are 13 players over 2300 in the Open:

  1. 2691 Junhan Wu 
  2. 2615 Chen Ruichao
  3. 2519 Martin Jezo
  4. 2515 Chen Bo Wen
  5. 2495 Lidney Castro
  6. 2494 Wang Qingliang
  7. 2456 Wang Yimiao
  8. 2433 Nathan Hsu
  9. 2397 Khaleel Asgarali
  10. 2373 Gabriel Skolnick
  11. 2330 Roy Ke
  12. 2317 Tiffany Ke
  13. 2306 Shao Boyang

One event some of you might want to jump into is Over 50. For some reason, we only have three entries so far, rated 1842, 1708, and 948. The event has $50 first, $25 second, and starts at 5:30PM on Saturday. I'm retired from tournaments (other than occasional hardbat events, though I normally use sponge), but I'm tempted to enter. Also, as of now, there are only two spots left for Under 2000, which should go soon, and then that event will be closed, unless someone drops out. (Max is 28, we have 26 entries.) 

I did some investigative work last year, and counted up all the USATT tournaments I've run over the years. This will be my 198th. In April I'll run the MDTTC April Open, and then the USATT Hopes Trials Tournament on April 29 will be number 200. (Followed soon after by the Maryland State Championships in June, #201.) Nearly all of the tournaments have been two-day tournaments - I think only three have been one-day tournaments, including the Hopes tournament that will be #200. The largest was the 1998 4-star Eastern Open, with 411 entries, still the record for a 4-star tournament, excluding the North American Teams, which is listed as 4-star.

I have no coaching today, but I'll be going over to the club tonight to get any final entries left there, and to set up. I keep two fold-up tables in the back storage room, which I combine with one of MDTTC's regular lounge tables for our control desk. I set up my laptop, the printer, clear out the tournament results on the wall from the last tournament to make room for this one, and about a zillion other things. Here is my tournament checklist of things to do before the tournament, and things to bring.

Before Tournament

  • Check on trophies DONE
  • Check on prize money checks DONE
  • Check on balls DONE
  • Print table numbers
  • Test laptop and printer
  • Backup mouse battery – AA DONE
  • Umpires DONE
  • New ratings DONE
  • Verify online checks
  • Check for Open Specials (discounts)
  • Remove players registered but not entered in any events
  • Set up check-in list
  • Draws for first events

To Tournament

  • Laptop
  • Printing paper
  • Bottled water, snacks
  • Paper clips, pens, tape, duct tape, extra folders
  • Extension cords, cell phone cord
  • Blue cash box
  • Table numbers
  • Printing ink for Samsung ML-6060
  • 3-prong power converters (2)
  • Umpire kit
  • Blank RR and SE draws
  • Director’s Password for Omnipong

Timo Boll ALC Review
I don't usually put up equipment reviews here, but I'm making an exception - here's a video review (14:16) from Table Tennis Daily of my own blade, the Butterfly Timo Boll ALC! The video features lots of action play by Timo Boll, who uses and help create his namesake racket. I've been using the blade (flared - FL) for about eight years now, with Tenergy 05 (FH) and Tenergy 25 (BH, though I've been experimenting with using 05 there as well), both 2.1mm. I originally discovered it when I was coaching Tong Tong Gong at tournaments, and he used it. When he made the USA Cadet National Team by upset - he was seeded 9th - he and his dad gave it to me as a reward. (I'm now sponsored by Butterfly so I get them free now.) I still use the one they gave me, with Tong Tong's name carved into it!

Table Tennis Grip and Handle Shape
Here's the article from Coach Me Table Tennis (Eli Baraty). "I was asked by an international player my opinion and thoughts regarding handle shape. And how does the grip effect your backhand and forehand strokes?!"

How to Improve Your 3rd Ball Attack
Here's the video (8:40) by Tom Lodziak.

Best Table Tennis Glue for Your Rackets
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Table Tennis Legend Ma Lin Serves Up Some Advice
Here's the article. "Growing up as one of the best table tennis players in the world isn’t like a normal childhood, but it brings its own reward."

Pingpong Diplomacy: How two Koreans united for table tennis -- and haven't met since
Here's the article from ESPN. "They were rivals when they first met, she said. Bitter adversaries. Two champions from nations who were -- and still are -- at war. Yet somehow they left each other having forged something deeper."

USATT Insider
Here's the latest issue that came out on Wednesday.

Forehand and Backhand Loop Against Backspin Multiball
Here's the video (37 sec) from 3T Table Tennis.

Some Fast Multiball
Here's the video (36 sec) of João Monteiro of Portugal, world #56 (but as high as #12 in 2014).

Just Do It!
Here's the video (5:26) from two years ago - I ran it then, but I just saw it again and thought I'd run it again.

LIU Shiwen vs CHEN Xingtong - China Super League 2017/18
Here's the video (32:14).

Turn Your Door into a Ping-Pong Table
Here's the video (37 sec).

The King of the Ping Pong of D4rkolandia
Here's the video (6:17) - it looks really funny, but it's spoken in Afrikaans! (Tell the truth - how many of you even knew that was a language?)

Adam Bobrow in the Philippines on a Table Tennis Tour
Here's the video (59 sec). Lots of funny trick shots!

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February 8, 2018

Illegal Hidden Serves: Letter to the ITTF

Two years ago I had an email with a pair of ITTF officials over fixing the problem with hidden serves. Both said they were working on it, but nothing so far as happened. So yesterday I sent them the following email. If nothing happens, I may once again go to the USATT Board on this. Previously I went to the Board and asked them vote to ask our Umpires and Referees Committee (then the Officials Committee) to enforce the serving rules as they are written, but it lost 6-1-1 as they didn't want to handicap USA players, since to compete internationally they'd both need their own illegal hidden serves and be able to return them. This time I'd simply ask the Board to send a note to the ITTF, imploring them to take action on this issue. My email below could be the draft of such a note.

Dear [NAMES WITHHELD],

I presume nothing has happened regarding fixing the problem of hidden serves? Coaches still have to go through that uncomfortable routine with their top juniors and parents where we explain that if they want to compete on an equal basis, they'll have to cheat as the top players do by illegally hiding their serves. Nearly every top player obviously hides their serves, and umpires, who cannot really tell if the serves are visible are not, simply do not follow the rules that specify that if they aren't sure whether the serve is legal, they must warn and then fault the player.

2.6.6 It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect.
2.6.6.1 If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.

I made my own proposal, the Net Visibility Rule (basically, the ball must be "visible" to the entire net), and others have suggested the ball must be visible to both umpires throughout the serve, or where the umpire would sit. Or the ITTF could simply takes charge, and set a date where all referees and umpires shall enforce the rules as they are written, with notice to the players, and perhaps (for a six month grace period) allow two service warnings per match. Or we could change the rules to make them easier to enforce, and coordinate this with a decree by ITTF for worldwide enforcement – and then follow through on it.

Note that I'm speaking here for myself, but I do plan on bringing this up at a USATT Board Meeting, where we perhaps send a note to ITTF imploring them to take action. I would like USATT to enforce the rule here, but the objection is that if we don't allow our players to cheat like the top players do, we'll be at a disadvantage, both by not using these illegal serves and because our players won't be used to facing them.

We're the only Olympic sport that openly allows cheating in our sport; isn't it time we fix this? Or do we want to wait until there are headline articles in the New York Times and other major newspapers around the world about rampant cheating in an Olympic Sport and at the Olympics itself?

And yes, hiding the serve is cheating, by definition, though an argument can be made that if the opponent does it first, then responding with your own illegal serves isn't cheating. But it all starts with either enforcing the actual rules (my preference), changing the rules to make them easier to enforce, or both. 

-Larry Hodges
Member, USATT Hall of Fame
Member, USATT Board of Directors
Chair, USATT Coaching Committee
USATT Certified National Coach
ITTF Certified Level 2 Coach
USATT Certified Umpire
Full-time Coach at Maryland Table Tennis Center

Table Tennis Speed Trap or, Is Your Racket Too Fast?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Adriana Diaz and Hurricane Maria
Here's her message, with photos (on Facebook) from Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, world #42 and the 2016 U.S. Open Women's Singles Champion. "Hurricane Maria did a lot of damage to our people. Our Club was no exception. Today, thank god and the contributions of Toyota PRPopular and Universal Group Inc. we celebrate receiving the team that will replace the team damaging during the hurricane. Everyone joined today at our school to install the team. Many children, young people and adults receive the teaching and training offered at our club daily. Sport is a gain for the family, for the people, for society. Thanks for helping us up. A hug from Ōsaka."

So You Think You Have A Good Serve?
Here's the video (3:35).

Let's Do a Little Footwork!
Here's the video (34 sec).

Table Tennis Therapy for Alzheimer's
Here's the video (2:50).

Larry with Clipboard vs. Crystal Wang
Here's the video (4:39) from a few years ago as I take on then USA Cadet Champion Crystal Wang, who was around 2450 at the time. (I'm about 2100 with the clipboard.) She played rather tentative as she knows I'm actually better if you attack over and over - I've played or trained with her many times as she was developing, both with sponge (a thousand times) and clipboard (dozens of times).
NOTE - some have reported they cannot see the video - alas, it must be set with some sort of restrictions, so just imagine me playing incredibly spectacular and you'll be able to see it in your head! :)

I Love Table Tennis Postcards
Here's where you can buy them!

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February 7, 2018

How to Change USATT Policy or Ask Questions
People regularly contact me about various USATT policies with their suggestions on what they think we should do. There's nothing wrong with this, as long as they approach it with an open mind - often there are things going on or info that they don't know about. But there's also this mistaken notion that I can single-handedly change things, or even that the USATT Board of Directors (of which I'm a member) would be the ones to make some of these changes. So let's look at how things actually do get done in USATT.

You have to separate the day-to-day operations and policy issues. Day-to-day operations are done by the paid full-time USATT Staff, mostly at USATT headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO. Policy issues are done by the USATT Board of Directors and by USATT Committees. (These latter two groups are unpaid volunteers.) Deciding which is which is key to getting things done, but if you aren't sure, contact the ones you think most likely and ask. There is a large overlap between these issues, and it often evolves. Often the CEO makes policy decisions on issues that involve staff, day-to-day operations, or issues that the Board has given him authority - ultimately, he makes far more decisions than the Board or anyone else. (There is also the USATT Media Team if you have news to report, though most of that would go through Matt Hetherington, USATT Media and Communications Director, who is listed both here and as a Staff person.)

Much of the duties of the various groups is covered in the USATT Bylaws. Article VII and VIII are all about the Board of Directors. Article IX is all about Committees. Article XIV is all about the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and by extension, the USATT Staff (which reports to him).

So how do you go about making changes, or just getting info on a topic? If you have questions, for example, about the U.S. Open or Nationals, or Ratings, or the Web Page, you'd go to the USATT Staff. If you have questions on Rules, or Coaching, or Tournaments (outside U.S. Open and Nationals), you'd go to the appropriate committee. It's not all black and white; while the Coaching Committee (which I chair) sets policy for Coaching Certification, the process itself is run by USATT Headquarters (specifically by Director of Operations, Andy Horn).

These committees are the "experts" on their topic. If you want a rule change, you don't go to the USATT Board of Directors; they are not the experts on rules. You'd go to the Rules Committee, and if they agree, they'd give their recommendation to the Board of Directors. And so on.

Sometimes there are parallel "experts." If you want to recommend a change in how USATT selects players for the National Team, you could go to either the High Performance Committee (HPC), or the High Performance Director (HPD, a USATT staff person), or both. While technically the HPC sets policy in this area, it is often based on recommendations by the HPD, the hired full-time expert on the topic. However, both are instrumental in setting these policies. If I, for example, wanted to make a recommendation, I'd likely discuss it with the HPD, and then go to the HPC.

Many still go to USATT Board members as their first step. That's fine, as long as they understand that they will likely be directed to the appropriate committee or staff person, though of course the board member may also discuss the situation with you. But in general, going to board is last resort. You can also go straight to the CEO, who will either deal with the problem, or send it to the appropriate person.

Changing Bats During a Match
Here's the new podcast (25:35) from PingSkills. Also covered: Joke of the week; On This Week; Deng Yaping's Birthday; Tournament Wrap; World Junior Circuits Final; European Top 16; Drill of the Week; Mental Preparation for Tournaments; Smashing Effectively; and Time to Throw Out Old Bat.

Boll Upsets Teammate Ovtcharov in all-German final in ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the article from Inside the Games. "Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s quest for a fourth consecutive title at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)-Europe Top 16 Cup at the Salle Omnisports du Pierrier in Montreux in Switzerland was frustrated by his 36-year-old German team-mate Timo Boll."

Reality Bites for Table Tennis Star Zhang
Here's the article from ECNS.com in China (in English). "Champion's career in question as TV time replaces table time … It's been too long since Chinese table tennis megastar Zhang Jike stood on the highest medal podium."

Father of the House, Once Again the Guiding Hand
Here's the ITTF article. "Nils-Erik Sandberg, who started Ångby Table Tennis Club in the western suburbs of Stockholm in 1956, was courtside guiding two young players born 50 years after the venerable Swede founded the celebrated club; Isak Edwardsson and Elias Sjörgen, both born in 2006, were proudly wearing the yellow shirt."

ITTF Looking for Media Intern for the Upcoming World Championships in Halmstad
Here's the ITTF article. "The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is offering media internship for young media professionals to work as part of the ITTF media team at the upcoming Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships to be held in Halmstad, Sweden from 29 April to 6 May 2018."

First Ever ITTF Staff Retreat
Here's the ITTF article.

2017 World Junior Circuit Finals Highlights: Kanak Jha vs Vikash Manav Thakkar (Final)
Here's the video (4:57).

Omron Forpheus Ping Pong Robot at CES 2018
Here's the video (2:09)

Favorite Celebratory Point
Here's the video (15 sec) from EmRatThich.

Ma Long - Great Rally
Here's the video (19 sec), against Kang Wi Hun of North Korea.

Ma Long - Serious Training
Here's the video (4:36).

Ma Long - Funny Training
Here's the video (1:25) with Zhang Jike.

Table Tennis Training at the Highest Levels of Our Sport
Here's the video (1:26) as Samson Dubina leads a group in munchkin pong.

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